Inaugural year for Doors Open North Grenville
This is one of 25 sites which will be open to the public to visit on Sept 24, 10 – 4 pm (at most sites). Free admission, family friendly and no ticket is required. It is part of Doors Open Ontario, a program with Ontario Heritage Trust, www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/northgrenville. Explore – Engage – Discover – North Grenville.
We are waiting to welcome you!
Kemptville Town Hall by David Shanahan
If there is a story behind every door, then the old Kemptville Town Hall is a library of fascinating and colourful tales. In its 143 years, it has served as a jail, a Fire Hall, a Town Hall, a Court House and an Archive!
The land was bought from local residents in 1873 for the large sum of $350, as the Village of Kemptville, which separated from Oxford-on-Rideau Township in 1857, needed a Town Hall. It was the Municipal Centre for Kemptville until 1998, when Kemptville rejoined Oxford and amalgamated with South Gower to form the new North Grenville. For another seven years, it remained in use by the municipality, until the new Municipal Centre opened.
But it was not just a century of Council meetings that took place there. The stone building also housed the offices of the Kemptville police, and the Council chamber doubled as a Court Room for inquests, hearings and trials. Judges and juries decided cases ranging from drunken behaviour to murder, and Councillors, Mayors and Reeves debated and decided on the issues which affected the development of the village into the town it became in the 1960’s.
While the political and legal minds worked away upstairs, the ground floor of the Town Hall was given over to the Fire Department, and generations of firemen (as they always were then) and fire trucks were stationed in the space now used by the courts. It was not until 1968 that the Fire Department moved out of the Town Hall and into the Armoury in Riverside Park. The Department maintained a fire dock behind the Town Hall, and, around 1881, a hose tower was erected attached to the Town Hall. This was a high, wooden tower in which the old fabric fire hoses could be hung up to dry after being used at a fire. Around 1898, a bell was installed in a special decorative canopy at the top of the tower, and it was used to warn of fires until the tower was badly damaged in, ironically, a fire in 1935. The tower was demolished in 1957.
After the municipality moved out of the building, the Ontario Provincial Courts and the Provincial Offences Court began to hold their sessions downstairs, where they continue today. One of the original jail cells is still in use also, a remarkable link to the history of the building.
It seems only appropriate that the upstairs room of the original Town Hall, where so many council meetings and court cases were played out, should today house the North Grenville Archives. Operated by the North Grenville Historical Society, the Archives are where our common history is preserved, in documents, photographs, maps, and so many other ways.
During Doors Open, on September 24, there will be a demonstration by Gordon Moat on an original spinning wheel, built by Horton Row (born in 1831 in Kemptville) who patented improved spinning wheels. His story will be told through costumes, hands-on demonstrations, information panels and artifacts.